© 2019 The Ethnography Atelier

Ruthanne Huising

Professor of Management and Organizations

emlyon business school

Governing Professional Practice: Expertise Voids, Evaluative Experts and Professional Autonomy

Abstract

Most professions experience periodic external scrutiny of their work practices and norms of conduct. Public concern about a profession’s performance, accountability, or evolving techniques often catalyze oversight organizations – policy makers and regulators – to examine these concerns and recommend any remedies. This paper examines how professional scrutiny processes may generate expertise voids – public concerns which the profession has not integrated into their task jurisdiction – which generate opportunities for evaluative experts – experts without substantive knowledge of the profession’s work – to reshape professional practice and norms of conduct. Drawing on a four-year field-level ethnography of a national consultation process that generated a regulatory framework to govern the use biological materials - pathogens, viruses, and toxins - in laboratories, I examine the conditions under which expertise voids emerge, the alternative expertise used to fill these voids, and the implications for scientists. I discuss how these findings relate to other cases in which professional practice is exposed to external scrutiny.